Trying to test some skis

Wednesday was great. I Skied the Stockli Scot Schmidt vs. the Scott Mission vs. the Head iM 88 in the morning. The Schmidt is magical. Afternoon was the Head iM78 vs. the Fisxher Race SC. Since the Race SC is my personal ski I really enjoyed a half day on them. We had a great time skiing everything thet Sugar Bowl had to offer. Brian joined NASTC for the secong half of the day for some backcountry training, He was impressed with the instruction and went back Thursday for more fun with NASTC including drop runs down to Donner Lake. All in all it was SUPER FUN!

Next week, however, the testing becomes serious. Next week we test the 2008/09 crop of skis and have to make some serious decisions. Testing is split between Nortern and Southern California this year. Southern is in Mammoth followed by Northern at Kirkwood. I will do both. Monday through Thursday next week will be the time to make decisions that will dictate next years ski wall- and with it my economic future. No stress… yeah right!

Brian, Becky and myself will go to Mammoth. Christian. Heather, Becky, Todd and others will join us at Kirkwood. John is out of the loop with a bad knee. Otherwise almost everyone will have some input. In addition, our regimin for testing will change a bit as we will be filling out cards for the reviews. Peter has a slightly different testing scorecard setup, but we should easily assimilate.

A few weeks after the Demo I go to Reno and put in the orders for skis. The skis show up in August and we have our big kick-off sale. Then we see what skis sell well throughout the season. That is our business cycle, and the next week will point me towards decisicons that will have a big impact on my life. In the end all I know how to do it is to ski the skis, choose what will work best in the various catagories, and buy them.

Wish me luck!

Las Vegas Report

Vegas was a gas as usual. I managed to stay out of trouble for the most part, and got some work done. First impressions are this:

Head- New ski to replace the Mojo 90 looks great, overall graphics were solid, a new “chip” iM78 should be spectacular, boots look solid. A monter in the 100mm range will battle with the Mojo 103 for floor space. A bit spendy like the 103, I may not stock both. There’s gonna have to be a ski off! Tyrolia bindings will see some changes due to FIS height requirements. Many models lose the snti-blocking anti friction devise as well as the diagonal heel. Bummer!! The LD-12 gets to keep all the good stuff as do all the railflex models. Maybe the most interesting thing at the Head booth were the Palmer skis. I need to ski them and do some more research (the Palmer website comes up as soon as this blog entry is done). So far they look more than interesting- more like they are kind of mind blowing! Peter Keelty of has spoken very highly of them and I attempted (without success) to ski them last year. Now they are being distributed by Head, so it should be easy for me to get on them. Maybe this next week?

Fischer- Watea gets only graphic changes (can’t fault them here!), Womens skis are solid with nice minor upgrades. Still missing a big wide ladies power ski, but the ladies stuff they have is really good. They showed a FIS race ski that has been the talk of the World Cup circuit. It has holes in the tip and a “swallowtail” in the rear. Everything else in Fischer skis looks great too. In addition to the skis, the boot line continues to evolve and improve. We sell more Fischer boots every year. Even the bags were really nice. They are made by High Sierra for Fischer this next year.

Volkl- Tigersharks are gone (I never liked ’em much anyway). The new “switch” ski is called the Grizzley. It looks awesome and is pretty awesomely expensive too. It will be interesting to see how well it skis. As a replacement for the AC40, the AC50 with a system Duke binding should be phenomonal. A womens Gotama, a rocker ski, and some additions to the Duke/Jester royal family rounded it out. Boots have been pretty well overhauled. Good graphics, very cool carbon buckles, need to get a few on some more feet. Just too little time at the Volkl booth. My hour was inturrupted by an award ceremony as Volkl was given props for their contibution to the US ski teams efforts.

Elan/Dalbello- Refinement on the ski side. A few tweaks in the Magfire series. 999 and 888 are joined by a really nice looking 777. A killer womens fat ski, an Ingimar Stenmark model carver, and a new big mountain “twin tip” series were all nice additions. Dalbello has (of coarse) kept pushing the Krypton thang with hot new graphics and some minor tweaks (primarily materials based). A new model replaces the Z series and incorporates come 3 piece cabriolet (krypton)style design features. I like it!

Stockli- A $3500 very limited edition ski was the showpiece. Let me know if you want to special order one! What I wanted to see however, was the new Scot Schmidt model. And there it was. Scot was there and I asked him how he felt about the final result. “Don’t know” he said, “haven’t skied it!” It turns out that there are currently 4 in existence. All four were there and Scot was taking one home to mount and test. We flexed it some and surmised that it felt pretty much like the current model (but with the new dimensions). He was thinking the tip may need to be softened up a bit more. Even legends get older I guess! Scot was also hopeful that Greg Stump will complete his history of ski movies to release in the fall. It sounds like a documentary type approach. Interesting. Anyway, I’m getting off track here. Stockli skis. New Cross series skis. All the big shirt skis (Stormrider xl, xxl, xxxl) get to keep running. New DP Pro. Rotors stay. Rotor 78 and the XXL were the best sellers nationally this year and it is no surprise. They appeal to a very large segment of the ski population.

Salomon has an interesting boot. It is a falcon with sections of the forefoot that can be heated and molded to the foot of the skier. Their skis look to be continue to improve as well. Alpina is typically a source for great kids boots. Each year I have to view the whole line to then order only junior boot models. This year out of the blue they are doing a foam injection model at around $400. Wow! This could be a great boot for a lot of people. I now have a pair in my size on the way and will foam ’em up and ski them ASAP. Hart skis are back and looking seriously good and hand made. I will be looking at them over the next few weeks also. Scott’s mission ski is still on the radar. I viewed Rossignol and was impressed. Totally revamped line from France with great graphics on the “7 deadly sins” collection. Replacement for the Bandit series looks similar to the B2, 3, 4, but after 10 years the Bandit name is gone. Rossi looks good. I like the rep too. Turns out we went to rival high schools. Did the full tilt and line tour and will be doing Full Tilt adeeper next year. Line skis look pretty good and are quite reasonably priced. Gotta ski ’em. 4Front has great art and a cool vibe but has moved the company from Tahoe and production from the US, so I am less interested than before.

There’s more (lot’s more) but that is the thumbnail of what I cared about going into next ski season!

Las Vegas in Winter

I am a snow farmer and it’s harvest time! Things are hectic here at the shop every day at this point. I did two Intuition liner installs, made a few insoles, did about 2 hours of paid boot labor and did the foam injection on a Strolz boot in addition to my general sales duties today. It took me about an hour just to clean up the debris I left at the end of the day. Tunes, boot work, rentals, everything is just going off! With the great snowfall that just keeps coming, business has been booming. Everyone has been putting in extra hours and getting it done, but we all need a bit of a break at some point. Therefore I let Brian take off for Jackson hole for a few days (he skied with Charlotte Moats all day yeasterday- very cool!). John has taken a week and is at Big White. Me? Just getting in my Wednesdays up the hill which I must admit have been epic. Unfortunately, this last Wednesday ended a bit early as my ski buddy (and friend of the shop) Neil broke his collar bone into four pieces. Becky, myself, Neil and Will Lachenauer (Dalbello/Elan rep) met up at Squaw to take in some extraordinary powder. We were haveing a great time romping aroung in the powder but Neils ski day ended at about 2 o’clock. Bummer. Next week I won’t get to ski as I will be in Las Vegas. Yes Las Vegas. That’s where the ski industry holds their annual trade show. Right in the heart of the season we spend four days in Vegas checking out next years gear. Sort of surreal but very cool and exciting. I am pumped up as usual to see the new stuff. Will brought a few new Elans to Squaw this week, and I have seen some of the new Fischers, but this is the kid in the candy store scenario for me. I’ll let you know what looks great in about a week!

Massive Snow!

Todd came to work and proclaimed that the worst storm to hit the area in decades was going to occur. Of coarse we didn’t pay it much mind. Todd has a tendency to find web sites that are as optimistic as he is. Lo and behold he was right! As last weekend approached the radio and TV news was all about the big storm. And it was a doozie. Super high winds and tons of snow. Kirkwood got 11 feet over a few days. The north shore got a bit less but still a great dump. Most renters cancelled as they were afraid to travel (probably wise). Most hard core skiers practiced their raspy “flu like” voices in preparation of calling in sick on Monday when it cleared. Christian and Heather headed up Friday morning and holed up in their condo while the resort was on storm/wind hold. Then it ended and Christian and Heather headed up onto Kirkwoods newly deep powder runs. The roads were all closed so they shared the mountain with the 300 or so other people lucky (or smart) enough to be snowed in with them for the day. It was so incredible that they took videos because they didn’t think we would believe how great it was. We watched the clips on Monday. Quite the videos!
Tuesday was a work day in Sacramento for the clothing preview of next years styles. As I sat during the Obermeyer presentation I found myself lacking the ability to pay attention. I kept staring out the window at the downpour that was adding another two feet of fresh pow. Wednesday I would ski! At 4:30 Wednesday morning we headed out. Four of us with powder on our minds. Again Kirkwood got the best dump so it was up hiway 88 to the Wood. Glory, Glory, Glory! Fresh powder all day and great company to share it with. Rocked the Fischer Porohete’s all day. Great ski! Overall, an epic day to be remembered. Wish you all could have been there…

Heading into the meat of the season…

Wow. How busy can it be? Not much more busy than the last 10 days. I am sooo glad to get a day to relax and catch up on basic needs like laundry and shopping for food. It has been nonstop rocking! Not that it isn’t expected to happen like thisl You sell about 275 pairs of boots before it snows and then the customers ski them all at the same time and bring them in for adjustments and bootfitting. Those skiers going up all bring their skis in for tunes (I need ’em tomorrow!). Standard and seasonal rentals are still keeping us busy all day long. Goggles, long underwear, heat packs…what else do I they need to refill or replace? It’s just crazy. This year was a pretty ideal situation for the Christmas ski vacation. A good dump a week or so before Christmas followed by good weather. That senerio leads to off the hook business. Thanks to the staff fer sure! Lot’s of overtime but not one complaint about it. They have done whatever is necessary to get the job done. Everything has been ready on time. I have a bunch of talented hardworking ezperts surrounding me and the outcome shows. Mitsi has been a great addition this year and Brian has become a star. John, Todd and Martin are exactly what I have come to expect- consistant and fabulous. Erle, Becky, Rebecca and the rest of the “fill ins” have been there when needed. I would be nowhere without them all. I hope I tell them that enough. Now comes the trade shows and the meat of the season. Many vacations make the schedule challenging, but we will get it done! See you at the shop!

From Texas with Love

Wow, super busy and intense at the shop right now. Most of us will work 6-7 days this week. Every day is big numbers and we need it to pay the Jan 10th bills, so it is welome chaos. My best friend from High School and Chico State lives in Texas. Our kids know each other well and his son Casey is visiting for his second ever trip to the snow. That’s him in the photo. My two daughters are going up with him (and everyone else in the Bay Area) this weekend. Conditiojns are great, and they should have a great time- SNOWBOARDING! Yes, as Casey is a rookie, it will be more fun to go snowboarding as they will all suck at it together. Thanks to Chris at NorSki for the snowboard gear and here is wishing you all a great holiday ski adventure! See ya next year!

My winner

I gotta say that my demo day winner was the Stockli Stormrider XXL. One thing i always look for in a ski is that it is powerful. unfortunatly that means it is ussually heavy. this time i acttually found a very powerful ski that also skis fairly light. How you may ask. ISO core and Stockli. The ISO core is Stocklis answer to synthetic light weight skis. the ski hugs the ground like a race car with a big spoiler but is light in and out of the turn. At first i was a little apprehensive to take it, full speed throught the changing snow conditions of the day from soft and forgiveing to icy and fast, But the more i skied it, the more it showed me that it stays constitant through all of the conditions. It cuts through ice and hard pack smoothly and effortlessly, its unfaised by loose, skied out snow, but is still lively and energetic in and out of the turn. Stockli Stormrider XXL, two thumbs up from me!

It takes a company

We went to Alpine Meadows Monday and Tuesday for the first industry demo of the year. This demo is set up to ski the models that are currently out there being sold. It lets us answer any lingering questions we have about the skis and/or let any new employees get a chance to try them out. Unlike the February event, which is serious business for us, we always have a nice relaxed time at this event as there is no pressure on us or the company reps.

We stayed both nights at Neil’s house on the North Shore as usual. Get up, make breakfast and off we go. Nine lift tickets on the business visa, drop off the keg at the Fischer tent, poach a great parking spot in the demo section, store the demo Stockli skis, boot up, score demo goggles, poles, a helmet, (whatever you want to try) from a vendor and ski all day. What a life.

All of our brands are skiing real well. Unfortunately, Head was a no show for this event. They are transitioning to a new sales rep and have basically botched the process from my point of view, including this demo situation. Head skis are very important to us and it was a real drag not having them there to compare. We have tested them enough to know the line intimately but the subtle nuances are discovered with even more time on them.

Fischer seemed to be the big winner this year. We always like the Fischer skis, but right now they are really peaking. Many potential new dealers were showing serious interest. Also, when I asked vendors what hardware they liked (outside of their own brand) the Fischer name was always part of the mix.

So both Head and Fischer are now skiing as well as any other brand out there. Both want to jump to the top and be “the next big thing”. Can either one of them do it? Every year we ski the “current big thing” and it is always at least a very competent ski. Often it is a fantastic ski, but not always. Always it is supplied by a company that has a great marketing department, fantastic advertising direction, killer graphics, solid and timely distribution, and a certain “buzz” about the company in general. Can either Head or Fischer be the next big thing? Time will tell. If they can do it I will be happy to go along for the ride. The skis are ready, however skis are not enough. It takes a company.

Stockli Claus

Ho Ho Ho! Last night I left work right at the closing bell and headed for Fresno. I was home in bed by 1:00am with 9 pairs of Stockli Demo skis. Our Stockli rep Brad Johnson (great guy, I really like Brad) is going to be out of town for a few weeks and cannot make our industry Demo Days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Being the benevolent dealer that I am, I agreed to make the drive down and haul the Demo Fleet up to Alpine Meadows for the event. With only a few NorCal dealers, this should work out fine. The great side effect is that we will have the skis through early January. If you want to get a ride on a Stockli, we will have everything available to try for about a month! A car full of great ski buddies, a box of Stocklis on top of the rig, and two days to ski everything available from any manufacturer… what a great job I have!

The Nastc experience

I just got back from taking a class from the North American Ski Training Center in Truckee. “Nastc” has been a great resource for our customers and the staff has done a few events as well. If you are interested in very high level instruction in a variety of vacation settings, Nastc is just the ticket for you. This particular class was a three day event called Certified Ski Movement Coach and my hope was to pick up some tips that would cross over into bootfitting. I did get a few boot oriented tidbits. Mainly we learned a lot about the mechanics of movement involved in skiing, and how to determine what biomechanic/physical issues an individual has and how to address them.

The class was comprised of about 9 qualified instructors and (little ‘ol) me. What a great time. The instructor for the ski movement section was Darcy Norman. Darcy is a physical therapy and athletic enhancement expert that deals with many world class athletes. His latest “big deal” has been working with the Telecom pro cycling team from Europe. Loads of pro athletes have photos on his walls that you would recognise. Darcy did the class room section, and then Nastc director Chris Fellows ran the on-snow sessions and helped relate the topic to the instructors in a way that they can use the information to further their craft.

What a joy to ski with these folks! I was of coarse the weakest technical skier of the group but that was no problem. With an instructor filled group, everyone was helpful in helping me accomplish learning some of the very difficult (for me) drills they devised to use the classroom sessions on the hill. And what great instruction it was! With Chris being a PSIA National Demo Team member and a PSIA-W board member, Robin Barnes on the PSIA-W tech team and a Ski magazine tester, Malcolm Ridenour a level 3 Examiner, and Kemp Dowdy a PSIA-W tech team member and examiner, we are talking about some of the best instructors available anywhere! The rest of the group was rounded out with other quality instructors. Most importantly was that they were simply a great group of people and great fun to ski and hang out with. These people are truly dedicated to teaching and skiing!

As Darcy is very cutting edge in his field, there were no precedents for the application of his knowledge. On the hill, Chris led us in a series of drills that with a lot of input from the group, should arm them with new tools to make our skiing experience just that much better! I know I improved my turns and have enough knowledge swimming in my head right now to keep my busy for the rest of the season. I’ve got some serious work to do.

For more information on Nastc, you can check them out at Nastc gets a hearty recommendation from California Ski Company!